Word Count

SFWA’s Nebula Awards ballot had something interesting happen this year. After the final ballot was announced, one of the novelettes was determined to be only 7,070 words long, and was removed from the ballot because novelettes are works that are at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words. I need to emphasize that I am not part of the Nebulas committee and I am not in any way privy to how this error happened, but this is a great opportunity to talk about word count and how it has changed since I’ve been writing.

Yes, something as simple as how many words there are in a story has changed, and radically, over the years.  Continue reading

Freshman Comp for Fiction Writers

I spent today teaching four of my five Freshman Comp classes — Mondays and Wednesdays are brutal for me this semester — all about the different kinds of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and complex-compound. We do this by writing a whole bunch of them, and then asking ourselves what effect we get by having a whole lot of them all in a row. (Hint: the answer we’re looking for is that we want to mix them up.) But it occurred to me that the advice that the classes all seemed to come to is also good advice for fiction writers.

Continue reading

What Is Charm?

So, this afternoon, as I was on my way out the door to replace the 10-year-old cargo pants that finally fell apart in the laundry, my husband looked at me and said, “Oh, Mr. English-major type, I need a definition of ‘charm’ for my theatre analysis class. Their textbook uses the term and gives examples of charming dialogue, but it doesn’t define it.”

Well, I stood there slack-jawed for a minute, stumped. How do you define something as ineffable as “charm”?

Well, here’s what I came up with: Continue reading